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February 10, 2005

A Feminist Analysis of Valentine's Day

Media Girl has asked bloggers for a feminist interpretation of Valentine's Day, and she's giving out an award. Amanda has already given her point-of-view. I figured, why not? I'll give mine.

I like Valentine's Day, although not nearly as much as I like Halloween. Halloween isn't as product-driven as holidays like Valentine's Day and Christmas and even Mother's Day. Mother's Day has been repackaged far from its original intent as an anti-war message to being about giving huge boxes of unedible chocolates, expensive dozens of red roses that won't last a day before withering, and funding the diamond wars in Africa. "Love" for mother is expressed in how much you blow your credit card.

I was curious to learn the history of Valentine's Day, so I Googled it. This excerpt is from The History Channel web site. Granted, The History Channel has been known to present shows supporting the idea that we on earth are inhabited by aliens and that Atlantis lies in the waters off Bimini, so who knows how accurate this is?

One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men -- his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.

According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl -- who may have been his jailor's daughter -- who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure. It's no surprise that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.

So in one story about Valentine's Day, like Mothers' Day, it started out as a war protest? It wouldn't do any good now for young men to marry so that they aren't sent off to that endless and futile war in Iraq, because many married men, women, and parents have been sent over there, far too many of them to die. At least my son at this point in time is too young to be sent off to a war, but with Bush in office I'm afraid he might be sent over in couple of years, and there is nothing I can do to stop it. I wish I could pull a St. Valentine and marry him off so that he wouldn't have to serve, but I know that won't work.

Call me cynical.

Even though it looks like Valentine's Day, like Mother's Day, started off as a war protest, it has devolved into crass commercialism. Kids feel snubbed if they don't get enough Valentine Cards from their friends in school. Television commercials tell men that they need to buy $300.00 diamond stud earrings for their wives and girlfriends, hinting that to do otherwise would be cheap. Then there are the ubiquitous advertisments for Godiva chocolates this time of year. If you weren't in debt in time for Christmas, let Valentine's Day put you in hock!

Still, I like Valentine's Day, but for me it's not any different than any other day. We'll just buy more local home-made beach chocolates and red wine than we usually do, and top it off with an appropriate Valentine's Day movie like "My Bloody Valentine" or "Dead-Alive." Both have romance in them. ;) For my husband and I, Valentine's Day is year round. I don't think people who love each other should express that love on one cold February day every year. Come to think of it, Halloween is year round for me, too. That holiday is loads of fun, with parties and candy and dressing up. I'm always game for a good time.

The funny thing about holidays is that I celebrate holidays that don't exist. I'm a Myst and Riven fan, and that game has holidays. They're on my Myst Calendar. My husband and I toast (with a glass of wine) "The Marriage Of Catherine and Atrus" and the "1st Feast of the Maker" when those dates roll around.

I'll buy my husband yet another box of candy pebbles and some dark chocolate bark for Valentine's Day. As usual, I'll end up eating most of it. ;)

Posted on February 10, 2005 at 02:19 PM | Permalink